Blog

The Hardy Boys The Final Chapter

The Washington Post:

I recently rediscovered my youth. It made me sneeze.

It lay unremembered at the top of a tall bookcase: 15 vintage Hardy Boys novels by Franklin W. Dixon. In getting them down I took a faceful of dust and beetle carapaces.

I carried the books to my favorite rocking chair, beside my favorite lamp, and reverently broke them open to revisit the literature that had inspired in me a lifelong love of language. The pages were as thick as a shirt collar and ochered with age. They smelled the way old books smell, faintly perfumed, quaintly mysterious, like the lining of Great-Grandma’s alligator handbag out in the steamer trunk. I began to read.

Pretty soon a new smell entered the room.

The Hardy Boys stank.

NBA Watching the Basketball Tournament’s Innovative Approach to Crunch Time

Zach Lowe, writing for ESPN:

Elam, a Mensa member, has devoted most of his spare time since 2004 to solving the slog of NBA crunch time. Oklahoma City’s win was remarkable to Elam because the Thunder’s deliberate fouling worked.

Elam has tracked thousands of NBA, college, and international games over the last four years and found basketball’s classic comeback tactic — intentional fouling — almost never results in successful comebacks. Elam found at least one deliberate crunch-time foul from trailing teams in 397 of 877 nationally televised NBA games from 2014 through the middle of this season, according to a PowerPoint presentation he has sent across the basketball world. The trailing team won zero of those games, according to Elam’s data.

I’m not convinced this idea doesn’t make most of the game kind of pointless, but it’s definitely outside of the box.

Considerations on Cost Disease

Scott Alexander:

So, to summarize: in the past fifty years, education costs have doubled, college costs have dectupled, health insurance costs have dectupled, subway costs have at least dectupled, and housing costs have increased by about fifty percent. US health care costs about four times as much as equivalent health care in other First World countries; US subways cost about eight times as much as equivalent subways in other First World countries.

I worry that people don’t appreciate how weird this is. I didn’t appreciate it for a long time. I guess I just figured that Grandpa used to talk about how back in his day movie tickets only cost a nickel; that was just the way of the world. But all of the numbers above are inflation-adjusted. These things have dectupled in cost even after you adjust for movies costing a nickel in Grandpa’s day. They have really, genuinely dectupled in cost, no economic trickery involved.

This entire post is fascinating.

New $5 Linodes Are Great Learning Tools

Linode, which is where this website is hosted, has launched a new $5 per month plan:

We’re also introducing the Linode 1GB, our lowest priced instance ever at only $5 per month. We believe this will add a great deal of utility to our service.

I have one of these that I use for testing and to run a few basic maintenance tasks (reports, stat checking, things like that), and it’s great. If you’re at all interested in learning about servers, Linux, and basic web administration, I highly recommend Linode. You can jump in, try things out, and it’s a simple and inexpensive way to learn (they also have good tutorials). If you mess something up, it’s easy to restore and reset and keep playing around. I’m a big “learn by doing” person, and if you’re like me, take the plunge and give it a shot!

As Marco Arment once wrote:

Modern Linux server administration is much easier than you think. If you can write a halfway decent app, you can manage a Linux VPS in your sleep.

You don’t need to compile kernels, build anything from source code, partition any disks, or deal with iptables in most cases. The defaults of good distributions and packages are almost always very secure. And once you set everything up, you can leave it running largely untouched indefinitely. You’ll probably never be woken up at 3 AM to reboot anything or delete log files.

Launching a Color Picker

I really love the Skala color picker for macOS, it’s a great way to grab colors from the screen and find the correct code to use in web development or other design work. I like it so much that sometimes I want to just launch the color picker outside of an app that has it built in. The best way I’ve found to do this is to create a simple AppleScript application (this app apparently does the same thing, but writing your own is fun).

I use this icon with it.

America, America

Jonathan Kirshner:

Worse still, even if we manage to endure the next four years and then oust him in the next election, from this point forward we will always be the country that elected Donald Trump as President. And as Albert Finney knew all too well in Under the Volcano, “some things, you just can’t apologize for.” This will be felt most acutely on the world stage. Keep in mind that in those areas where Trump departs from traditional Republican positions, such as those regarding trade and international security, Congressional power is much weaker. Trump can start a trade war or provoke an international crisis just by tweeting executive orders from the White House. And that damage will prove irreversible. Because from now on, and for a very long time, countries around the world will have to calculate their interests, expectations, and behavior with the understanding that this is America, or, at the very least, that this is what the American political system can plausibly produce. And so the election of Trump will come to mark the end of the international order that was built to avoid repeating the catastrophes of the first half the twentieth century, and which did so successfully — horrors that we like to imagine we have outgrown. It will not serve us well.

ReadKit 2.5

ReadKit 2.5:

ReadKit 2.5 is a major update that introduces a new design and contains various improvements and fixes. Beside the new UI, this version also adds support for the Touch Bar on the new MacBook Pro. Delicious API has been too unstable lately; therefore, this service is no longer supported by ReadKit.

My favorite Mac RSS reader got a nice update.

NightStand for Apple Watch

ElevationLab’s Apple Watch dock, NightStand, is currently on sale:

Just set your watch on, from out of the corner of your eye, no careful alignment required. Locks to your bedside table so you never have to hunt for the cord. Undocking is one-handed. Solid, soft, seamless construction. Low-profile, minimal design.

I looked at a few different charging/docking methods and this is by far my favorite.

Call Blockers for iOS

Marco:

When I learned about Nomorobo from readers and saw how creepy it wasn’t, I deleted Truecaller immediately and subscribed to Nomorobo, and it works great.

A few days ago, after a 100% success rate for a couple of weeks — every spam call (and zero non-spam calls) identified before I answer — I enabled the option to send spam calls directly to voicemail.

Now, from my point of view, I just don’t get spam calls anymore.

To me, that’s $2/month very well spent.

I must have been put on some list somewhere because I’ve been getting one or two robocalls a day for the past month.1 I finally signed up for Nomorobo after hearing Marco talk about it on the latest episode of ATP and it’s been money well spent.


  1. I love the fake “oh I was just putting my headset on” call the most.

Cool App: Downie

Downie:

Ever wished you could save a video from the Internet? Search no more, Downie is what you’re looking for. Easily download videos from thousands of different sites.

I’ve been playing around with this app the past couple of days to see how well it works and have come away impressed. I’ve tried a few of these in the past and they never quite work right for me — but this one has been solid so far.

Donald Trump’s Muslim Ban Is Evil

Rolling Stone:

On Friday, President Donald Trump signed an executive order that stops all refugees from entering the United States for 120 days, and those fleeing the brutal war in Syria indefinitely. It also gives Christians fleeing persecution priority over Muslims, inserting a religious test into our refugee program. It bans all visas from seven countries whose populations are mostly Muslim.

This order is an act of evil.

‘Voltron: Legendary Defender’ Exceeds All Expectations

Polygon:

Voltron: Legendary Defender’s second season far surpasses any expectations I had for it. I was worried going in that the show would suffer from a sophomore slump, but Legendary Defender manages to capture the magic of the first season and expand the universe. In the three episodes Netflix provided to me ahead of the show’s release, there are more characters, more worlds and the backstories we got a glimpse of last season are explored more at length.

We just started the second season last night and I’m hooked again. I love this show.

Preserve, Protect, and Defend

David Remnick, writing for The New Yorker:

The reason so many people are having fever dreams and waking up with a knot in the gut is not that they are political crybabies, not that a Republican defeated a Democrat. It’s not that an undifferentiated mass of “coastal élites” is incapable of recognizing that globalization, automation, and deindustrialization have left millions of people in reduced and uncertain circumstances. It is not that they “don’t get it.” It’s that they do.

Since Election Day, Trump has managed to squander good faith and guarded hope with flagrant displays of self-indulgent tweeting, chaotic administration, willful ignorance, and ethical sludge. Setting the tone for his Presidency, he refused, or was unable, to transcend the willful ugliness of his campaign. He goes on continuing to conceal his taxes, the summary of his professional life; he refuses to isolate himself from his businesses in a way that satisfies any known ethical standard; he rants on social media about every seeming offense that catches his eye; he sets off gratuitous diplomatic brushfires everywhere from Beijing to Berlin. (Everywhere, that is, except Moscow.)

Cool App: ToothFairy

Tooth Fairy is for macOS:

Single click away from your favorite bluetooth device. Tooth Fairy helps you to switch connection of a selected bluetooth device, for example, AirPods, directly from menu bar or even global hotkey. You can do it with the system bluetooth menu bar but Tooth Fairy can save you a few clicks.

Recommended: Control + ESC to quickly connect your AirPods.

How Jon Stewart Took Over the Daily Show and Revolutionized Late-Night TV: An Oral History

Vanity Fair has an excerpt from a recently released book with the oral history of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.

My wildest dream for The Daily Show when I started was “This will be fun. Hopefully we’ll do it well.” Success for me would’ve been feeling like I figured it out. That I got to express the things I wanted to. It was never “I want this to be a cultural touchstone … but only for a very small portion of America.” And I was hoping to stay on TV longer than nine months this time.

What a great read. I’ve already added the full book to my Amazon wishlist.

World War Three, by Mistake

New Yorker:

President Jimmy Carter’s national-security adviser, Zbigniew Brzezinski, was asleep in Washington, D.C., when the phone rang. His military aide, General William Odom, was calling to inform him that two hundred and twenty missiles launched from Soviet submarines were heading toward the United States. Brzezinski told Odom to get confirmation of the attack. A retaliatory strike would have to be ordered quickly; Washington might be destroyed within minutes. Odom called back and offered a correction: twenty-two hundred Soviet missiles had been launched.

Brzezinski decided not to wake up his wife, preferring that she die in her sleep. As he prepared to call Carter and recommend an American counterattack, the phone rang for a third time. Odom apologized—it was a false alarm. An investigation later found that a defective computer chip in a communications device at NORAD headquarters had generated the erroneous warning. The chip cost forty-six cents.

A terrifying read.